Today the Fairfax broadsheets turn from the religious beliefs of Australians to how they see the relationship between religion and politics.
Their Nielsen poll had however been scooped by Pollytics blog, which reported during the week that most Australians think that religion and politics should be separate
Even among religious believers, 80% agree with the proposition that religion and politics should be separate. But religion appeared more popular when the 2007 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes asked about whether politicians should follow Christian values in making decisions. Even among those with no religion, 10% thought politicians should follow Christian values, along with nearly 40% of people with a religion.
From this it might follow that Christian politicians would be popular as the most likely politicians to follow Christian values. But Nielsen finds that even among believers a candidate being promoted as a Christian will turn off nearly as many voters as it turns on.
(Apologies for the spelling errors in the two Nielsen tables, but I can’t change them.)
Perhaps the ambiguity in the term ‘Christian values’ helps explain these apparently discrepant results. Christian churches promote values that are not that far from values promoted in other religions and secular philosophies. And there is an important distinction between politicians following general values (eg charity, honesty) and imposing Christian practices.
Overall I think the polls confirm the view that a politician running as the representative of a particular church isn’t likely to get very far. However, with nearly 60% of voters either supportive of or neither agreeing or disagreeing with the idea that politicians should follow Christian values, and 86% either supportive or indifferent to a candidate being promoted as a Christian, the electorate does not seem to share the religious phobias of some commentators on religion and politics.